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Prayer and Prepare?


“Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God.

I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10



Every year, St. Michael’s School reviews its safety protocols and procedures to ensure that our students, staff, and families are able to come on campus and expect to be safe and secure. This week, I am providing you with some information regarding our progress.


As I have previously shared, we are in the process of quite an extensive examination of our safety practices. While many of our procedures are exemplary, and the upgrades we have made over the past decade have been beneficial, there is always room for improvement as we learn about mistakes and better/best practices in other schools. Last year, we acquired the services of Vincent Deocampo with Vanguard Threat Solutions. He met with our Safety Team and then conducted a Vulnerability Site Assessment to identify probable threats related to Active Shooter/Armed Intruder attacks. He analyzed our current safety practices, processes, traffic flow, physical security, and preparedness. He then conducted a one-day training seminar with all staff to review best practices going forward, many of which we have begun to implement. On December 15, he will lead an armed intruder/active shooter drill with all staff. Additionally, the Diocese has partnered with the San Diego Office for Schools and Tim Ware/Diamond Safety Training to provide teams from each school with extensive resources in this area. (see link to Southern Cross Article here). This program focuses not only on armed intruder/active shooter training, but also on preventative measures to identify unstable individuals and diffuse potential future conflict. At the end of the four, full-day sessions, each school in the Diocese will be expected to complete a comprehensive Safety Plan, which encompasses all potential threats. Parents will have the opportunity to view this Safety Plan once complete.


During the month of October, Religion teachers will be providing instruction pertaining to Safe Environment, a program initiated by the Diocese of San Diego to equip students with strategies if they feel unsafe around another student or adult. We no longer use the term “Stranger Danger” because often it is someone familiar to the student who may inflict harm. The Diocese has been most proactive in creating and updating this training over the past two decades. The model is called “No-Go-Tell,” and simply put, a student should say “No” if someone is threatening them; they should “Go,” or try to get away from the individual if possible; and they should “Tell” another adult immediately. Instructions for parents, by grade level, are available through FACTS Family Portal under Resource Documents titled "Safe Environment Conversation Starters". “No-Go-Tell” posters are visible in every classroom, and teachers reference this practice throughout the school year.


While the danger from building fires has substantially diminished over the last half-century, we still conduct regular fire drills. This year, our procedure has changed a bit dictated by recent active shooter events. Now, when the fire alarm sounds, students will not exit immediately; rather, they are asked to wait in their classrooms until they hear an announcement or if they smell smoke. The Great California Shake-Out, an annual Earthquake Drill held each October, will be conducted on Thursday, October 26 at 10:26 (please note, the State drill will be on October 19, but we have delayed our local drill by one week). We will explain to students what actions they should take in the event of an earthquake while on campus. Teachers have all been assigned and trained in their respective roles (Communication, First Aid, Food and Water Distribution, etc.). During the drill, students will “duck and cover” (which is still the preferred practice) before relocating to the South Campus Field. Two students will be asked to feign an injury, and the Sweep Team will need to “rescue” those students using a stretcher and/or wheelchair.


In January, following our December armed intruder/active shooter training, we will conduct a drill with students. While it is not our intent to frighten anyone, it is prudent that we are prepared in the event of an emergency, and the drill will be modified by grade level. You will be notified of the date of the drill in advance.


Per the recommendation of Vanguard Threat Solutions, all school locks have been replaced, and staff have been issued new keys. We are currently examining any breaches in access points (gates), and we are working with a company to ultimately enclose the middle driveway with a gate, and extend fencing in front of the campus. In addition, we are analyzing the feasibility of increasing the height of our existing fencing around the fields. Further recommendations will be addressed as funding becomes available.


Through all of our efforts, it is important to remember that the likelihood of any of these catastrophic events occurring is quite slim. The potential for danger is lurking around any corner – at the grocery store, at the mall, at the beach, at the theater. We most definitely should be alert and prepared, but we cannot allow ourselves to succumb to panic. That is the goal of the Evil One, who wishes for us to be frightened and afraid. We, as Catholic Christians, always turn to our loving God, to “protect us from all evils and dangers.” By attending Mass, through frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist, and by engaging in fervent prayer, we not only arm and protect ourselves, but we also obtain the strength and grace to overcome.


In Mission,

Kathy

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